April 10 in Indian history marks the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha. The first Satyagraha movement, which was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and took place in the Champaran district of Bihar in 1917, was a major uprising in the Indian Independence Movement, during the period of the British Raj.
The Champaran Satyagraha combined extra-constitutional elements with the use of moral force against an opponent. It is remembered as India’s first civil disobedience movement, which was started by Mahatma Gandhi in response to injustices faced by farmers in Bihar’s Champaran district.
The Champaran district was part of a permanent settlement region that included vast zamindari estates under the control of wealthy and powerful landlords. The zamindars leased most of the villages to thikadars, the most powerful of whom were European Indigo Planters.
The resentment surrounding indigo cultivation compelled Raj Kumar Shukla, a farmer to persuade Mahatma Gandhi to visit Champaran and work for the oppressed peasants. He followed Gandhi to Kanpur and Sabarmati. Gandhi finally agreed to visit Champaran.
In 1917, Gandhiji travelled to Champaran with Raj Kumar Shukla. On his arrival, the District Magistrate sent him a notice stating that he was not to stay in the Champaran district and that he needed to leave as soon as possible.
Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘I came here to render humanitarian and national service. I shall make Champaran my home and work for the suffering people.’
The arrival of Gandhiji in Champaran had created a stir among British officials. They feared that his presence would add fuel to the fire that had erupted in Champaran. Around the same time, they were well aware that, due to his large audience, he needed to be closely monitored and dealt with.
As soon as Mahatma Gandhi became aware of the situation, he wrote to the Commissioner telling him that he wanted to work with the government’s knowledge and cooperation. He also requested an appointment so that he could apprise officials about the purpose of his visit.
Gandhiji and his associates went on a tour of the villages, engaging in open dialogue with the locals. After hearing their complaints, he successfully requested that this system needs to be abolished and farmers must be compensated for unpaid dues. As a result, European planters abandoned the region in the following years. The experiments of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in India had started.
With the beginning of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, let’s draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, and his first Satyagraha movement, the Champaran Satyagraha that began on 10th April 1917, and played an important role in India’s Independence Movement.